Texas Rangers v Boston Red Sox

Mike Olt says his vision is just fine


Cubs prospect Mike Olt had a rough 2013. He posted a meager .739 OPS with the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock. Then the Rangers traded him to the Cubs in the Matt Garza deal. With Triple-A Iowa, Olt posted a .551 OPS in 152 plate appearances. He was bothered by vision issues, a symptom of a concussion he suffered after getting hit by a pitch while playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic.

According to ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers, Olt’s vision problems have cleared up and he’s ready to bounce back in 2014.

“I don’t mind answering [the question, “How are you seeing the ball?”] anymore,” Olt says. “Last year was so stressful because we didn’t know what was going on. I don’t mind answering that this year because I’m better.”

Olt has only taken batting practice against coaches and a few rips against Cubs pitchers, but already he knows he feels better than a year ago. Now it’s about finding his swing again — he hit 28 home runs at Double-A for Texas in 2012.

“I haven’t had any problems so far,” he said.

Rogers notes that Olt, a third baseman by trade, has been taking grounders at first base to make himself more versatile to the team. Luis Valbuena is expected to start the season as the team’s everyday third baseman. The Cubs would love nothing more than for Olt to have a great spring and give them a tough decision to make at the hot corner.

Nationals fire reigning Manager of the Year Matt Williams

Washington Nationals' manager Matt Williams looks on from the dugout during a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Friday, May 2, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)

Matt Williams was voted the National League Manager of the Year on November 11, 2014, receiving 18 of 30 first-place votes from Baseball Writers Association of America members.

Today the Nationals fired him following a season full of disappointment, reports of clubhouse discontent, and Jonathan Papelbon choking Bryce Harper in the dugout.

Williams went 179-145 (.552) in two seasons in Washington, which is an excellent winning percentage, but when you take over a stacked team the expectations are extremely high and there was seemingly nothing anyone could point to about his actual managing that suggested he was doing a good job.

His in-game tactics and particularly his rigid bullpen usage patterns infuriated fans. His dealings with the local media became increasingly antagonistic. And even setting aside two players literally fighting in the dugout there’s ample evidence that Williams lost the clubhouse a long time ago.

Williams was far from the only thing wrong with the Nationals this season and he’s hardly the primary person to blame for their disappointing record, but it’s also hard to make a strong case for his sticking around–meaningless, beat writer-voted award or not–and general manager Mike Rizzo predictably acted quickly to move on.

Now we’ll see who gets to take the next crack at managing the Nationals to play up to expectations.

Dan Haren plans to retire after the playoffs are over

Dan Haren
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Dan Haren, who said two months ago that he was leaning toward retiring after the season, reiterated those plans following the Cubs’ regular season finale Sunday.

At age 34 he started 32 games for the Marlins and Cubs with a 3.60 ERA and 132/38 K/BB ratio in 187 innings, so Haren would have no problem finding work and a solid paycheck for 2016.

However, he’s not expected to part of the Cubs’ playoff roster and told Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago:

That was it for me. If I have to pitch in the postseason, I’ll be ready for sure. Happy the way the last few starts have gone. Being able to contribute to this amazing team. I’m just thankful to be a part of it. If I don’t pitch in the postseason, that’s it. It’s been fun. Hopefully there’s a lot more games to go. … If my name is called, I’ll be ready.

Injuries has lessened Haren’s overall effectiveness in recent years, but he’s remained a solid mid-rotation starter and has pitched 13 seasons in the big leagues with a 3.75 ERA in 2,419 innings. He made three All-Star teams and earned more than $80 million.